Facts about the survey Voluntary set-asides and certified area

The Swedish Forest Agency compiled statistics on voluntary set-asides for the first time in 1996. Statistics on certified areas are available from 2016 onwards.

The statistics about voluntary set-asides is presented by county, part of country and ownership category.

The statistics about certified productive forest land area is presented county, part of country, owner category and type of certification.

Definitions and explanations

Voluntary set-aside

An area of productive forest land for which the landowner has voluntarily decided not to conduct measures that may damage natural values, cultural heritages or social values. The landowner must document this in a plan or other document.

Parts of the country

  • Northern Norrland – Norrbotten and Västerbotten counties
  • Southern Norrland – Jämtland, Västernorrland and Gävleborg counties
  • Svealand – Dalarna, Västmanland, Örebro, Värmland, Södermanland, Uppsala and Stockholm counties.
  • Götaland – Västra Götaland, Halland, Skåne, Blekinge, Gotland, Kalmar, Kronoberg, Jönköping and Östergötland counties.

Owner class

  • Individuals – Natural persons, estates of deceased persons and companies that are not limited liability companies.
  • Others – State, state-owned limited companies, other public owners, privately owned limited companies and other private owners.

Certification Type

  • PEFC – Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification
  • FSC – Forest Stewardship Council

How we make the statistics

The data collection is done with three different methods depending on the type of property owner:

  1. For some major property owners, we collect geographic data (geodata) annually. These account for about 44 percent of the voluntary set-asides.
  2. For certified forest owners, in addition to those mentioned in the first point, we collect data via an annual survey to those who hold a direct certificate or are responsible for a group certificate within FSC or PEFC. The answers are based on data in the registers of certificate holders.
  3. For non-certified property owners, we collect area data intermittently, most recently via a survey conducted in 2018. Approximately 17 percent of the voluntary set-asides are from non-certified forest land.

Estimation of forest characteristics within subset of voluntary set-asides

The 44 percent of the voluntary set-asides that relate to geodata have been combined with data from the Swedish National Forest Inventory (NFI) to describe the characteristics of voluntary set-asides within this subset of voluntary set-asides. Thus, the estimates are not representative of all voluntary set-asides and geodata are also only available for parts of Norrland and Svealand.

The estimates are based on the NFI's inventories during the years 2017-21. In longer time series, we also use data from previous inventory years, but then it is still geodata regarding voluntary set-asides in 2021. Then the forest land is followed back in time with the help of the NFI´s time series.

We present the results for voluntary set-asides and we make comparisons with other productive forest land where formally protected areas are included as well as the voluntary set-asides for which there is no geodata.

Reliability of statistics

The reliability of the statistics for the data we receive in the form of comprehensive map data (geodata) is considered good. Any overlap with formally protected forest land and other types of property than productive forest land is excluded based on National Land Cover Data to adapt the data to the Swedish Forest Agency's definition of voluntary set-asides.

Geodata used to estimate the forest characteristics of voluntary set-asides account for about 44 percent of the total area of voluntary set-asides and it is not possible to determine to what extent these areas are representative of the total area of voluntary set-asides. The data in geodata is extremely limited for Götaland, which means that we do not report any results for that part of the country.

For the part of the statistics that we collect via questionnaires to certificate holders, there are sources of error such as incorrect answers and coverage problems. The response rate to the questionnaire is high and only one respondent out of twenty has not answered the survey, the forest area of that respondent is very low and the answers from previous years' questionnaire (when they answered) have been used in the calculation instead. Some actors have partial non-response where, for example, they cannot divide the area by owner categories or by county but can report a total area. In this case, estimates of the distribution are made with auxiliary data or with the respondent's estimates.

Every year, some respondents improve their registers and the need for these assumptions decreases over time. This also means that the statistics are often revised even for previously published years. Over time, changes in ownership structure and certification bodies are noted, which can also give rise to sources of error. Incorrect survey responses are managed through plausibility checks, including responses from previous years. Survey responses that do not follow the definition of only productive forest and do not overlap with formal protection risk giving some overestimation.

When errors are detected, the statistics are corrected.

For the group of non-certified property owners, a separate survey that is not conducted every year. These account for about 17 percent of the voluntary set-asides and the last time they were surveyed was in 2018.

Revisions are common for the statistics on certified area and voluntary set-asides and annual changes as well as regional comparisons should be made with caution.

Other statistics

Statistics on formally protected forest land are published jointly by Statistics Sweden and the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency in the product “Protected nature” and by the Swedish Forest Agency in the product “The Swedish Forest Agencys formal protection and compensation payments” (former “Habitat protection and nature conservation agreements”).

Statistics on forest land (productive and unproductive) are published by SLU National Forest Inventory in the product “Forest data.”

Statistics on set-asides are published by the Swedish Forest Agency in the product “Environmental considerations in regeneration felling.”

Coherent statistics on the area of voluntary set-asides have also been published by Statistics Sweden since 2019 in the statistics on Formally protected forest land, voluntary set-asides, set-asides, and unproductive forest land.


  • Last Updated: 5/16/2024